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The Unclassed

George Gissing

Book Overview: 

The Unclassed tells the story of two friends who are aspiring authors living in London in the late 19th century. Both of them fall in love. Both believe in social change but do not know how to bring it about. Both are sceptical about the values of their times. Both want respectability more then they would admit. This book, unlike many others of it's time, tells about working women, and includes honest descriptions of the slums of London.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ecessity of his existence to mix from time to time in the life of the town, and a stroll into the Strand after nightfall inevitably led to the expenditure of whatever cash his pocket contained. He was passionately found of the theatre; the lights about the open entrance drew him on irresistibly, and if, as so often, he had to choose between a meal and a seat in the gallery, the meal was sacrificed. Hunger, indeed, was his normal state; semi-starvation, alternating with surfeits of cheap and unwholesome food, brought about an unhealthy condition of body. Often he returned to Walcot Square from his day-long drudgery, and threw himself upon the bed, too exhausted to light a fire and make his tea,—for he was his own servant in all things except the weekly cleaning-out of the room. Those were dark hours, and they had to be struggled through in solitude.

Weary as he was he seldom went to bed before midnight, sometimes long after, for he clung to those few hou. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Charming and thoughtful

Although little-known today, George Gissing's (1856 - 1903) second published novel "The Unclassed" deserves to be read and remembered. The book was written in 1884 and published as a three-decker novel for which Gissing received the paltry sum of 30 pounds. In 1895, when he had received some reco...more

People who have read even a couple of Gissing's books are
probably familiar with his sad life. "The Unclassed" an
extraordinary second novel was written in the darkest days of
his relationship with Nell Harrison. She was a young prostitute
he had met when he was at Wakefield College. By the time "Th...more

Gissing's pessimistic approach makes more sense if you know that his ‘real’ life was pretty miserable. Bad marriage choices certainly reflect his style of writing. The Unclassed is set in late Victorian London. The 3-female characters were at school together as small children and their lives take...more

I stumbled upon this book almost by chance. Every now and again I will browse the Kindle store for some classic fiction. Before coming across it myself, I hadn't heard of it. Yet I am glad I did.

It starts off with disorder in a classroom. A young girl by the name of Ida Starr announcing:
"I did it...more

In the 1895 edition, Gissing had edited this novel from the original 1884 edition, calling it "work of a very young man, who dealt in a romantic spirit with the gloomier facts of life".
The edition I read is the original 1884 text. The novel tells the story of Ida Starr,an orphan, driven to prost...more

A classic I missed along the way, this 1884 novel belies Gissing's contemporary classing with Hardy and other giants of the era. At times, the hand is a bit too heavy. Largely, the primary reason for reading this book is for another peek into the manners and values of late 19th century England. A...more